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Gaming History You Should Know – Pokemon Center NYC January 12, 2020

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It’s Sunday! Welcome back to the first Gaming History You Should Know of 2020, where we highlight some of the best original gaming documentaries from across the web! Today, we’re going to take you back nearly twenty years (which sadly doesn’t seem as long ago as it should for someone like me) to take a look at something that sadly we will never have the chance to experience ever again.

Pokémon Centers have always been a staple of the Pokémon games. They’re a haven in nearly every town where players can take their characters to heal their Pokémon, swap out their Pokémon party or activate their link cables (or wireless adapters later on) to communicate with other trainers. In essence, they’re the coolest place for a Pokémon Trainer to hang out and I’m sure that many kids (and some adults) wished places like that existed in the real world. Well, did you know that Pokémon Centers do actually exist in the real world?

That’s right, there are actually Pokémon Centers all across Japan, they just function differently than they do in the games. They are decorated from top to bottom in awesome Pokémon decorations including original statues and art. In them, customers can buy tons of exclusive Pokémon merchandise ranging from plushes, figurines, snack food, clothing and a lot more. Players could also (depending on the location) interact with original Pokémon games you couldn’t find in stores OR eat incredible Pokémon-themed food at the in-store cafe. If I ever earned enough money to afford a vacation in Japan, you can be darn sure I would try to visit as many of these places as I could!

But these Pokémon Centers, while completely awesome, only exist in Japan. I’ve heard there are a few vending machines in the Seattle area that sell a limited selection of their merchandise, and a website also exists online which ships a limited selection of their wares to the US, but that’s it. No actual physical Pokémon Centers exist in the United States. However, that hasn’t always been the case.

What if I told you that a Pokémon Center used to exist in the US? One did. Located near the heart of Rockefeller Center in New York City, Pokémon Center NY was a Mecca for all Pokémon Trainers on this side of the planet. Here’s the actual television commercial for the store which contains some rare footage of its interior.

Doesn’t that look incredible? Sadly, I never was lucky enough to visit this place while it operated. It lasted only from 2001-2005. Video and photographs of it are rare and hard to come by due to the fact the store had a no cameras policy (for SOME reason that escapes all logic). However, we’re not here to talk about what the store looked like, we’re going to be featuring the hard work of an entire group who made it their mission to preserve the history of this magical place.

YouTube Channel Hard4Games, which specializes in finding and preserving extremely rare game content hit the gold mine with this video. After what must’ve been a MASSIVE undertaking by a group of some of the best preservationists and Pokémon Enthusiasts in the world, they succeeded in finding and resurrecting a major original component of Pokémon Center NY, the store’s Pokémon distribution machine. Take it away, Hard4Games.

The location previously used as Pokémon Center NY now serves as Nintendo NY (formerly Nintendo World NYC), which sells exclusive Nintendo and Pokémon merchandise you can’t find anywhere else (however Japan’s Pokémon Centers certainly have a bigger selection). I have actually been to Nintendo NYC (twice) and can’t recommend visiting it enough. While they no longer are a Pokémon Center, they do have a history of Nintendo museum on the second floor with some rare and classic items on display from the company’s history.

Special thanks to Hard4Games and the team of preservationists including Retro Ali for making this video and letting me feature them on this site! Without their work I would have never been as informed about this incredible store as I am now. If you’d like to know more about Pokémon Center NY, check out this preservation website: pokemoncenternewyork.com

Gaming History You Should Know – History of Super Mario Bros 3 December 22, 2019

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Its Sunday and that means it’s once again time to post another Gaming History You Should Know. In this series, we highlight some of the best independently produced content from across the web focused on the history of gaming. Today, we’re going to be highlighting a brand-new video produced by someone we’ve talked about before, Norman Caruso, better known to the world as The Gaming Historian.

In the late 80s, Nintendo was utterly dominating the video game market and would go on to legendary status in popular culture. In fact, many il-informed adults still believe Nintendo is the only company to ever make video games due to their complete dominance at that time. The NES console, (with its legendary exclusive games like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Tetris, Duck Hunt, and Metroid) was selling huge numbers with no end in sight. There was just one problem.

Super Mario Bros 2 released in Japan and due to extreme difficulty and its identical graphics to the previous title, never was released in the United States. However, Super Mario was just as recognizable to young people of the time as Mickey Mouse and it was nearly certain Nintendo could make another hit for their console if they released a new Mario game in the US. Could they do it? Watch the video below and find out!

Special thanks to Norman, The Gaming Historian for doing this video about a game I cared about so much. Most people cite Super Mario World as the best Mario game ever made. For me, Super Mario Bros 3 is not only the greatest game on the NES, it is the greatest Mario game.

Super Mario Bros 3 can be played on the NES, Wii, Wii U, 3DS and Nintendo Switch.

Gaming History You Should Know – The Downfall of Star Wars Galaxies December 15, 2019

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Welcome back to another dose of Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced content about the history of the gaming industry. Today, we’re going to be featuring the work of the YouTube Channel saintmillion and a video they produced about something that at one time meant a lot to me, what they believe to be the beginning of the downfall of the MMO Star Wars Galaxies.

Star Wars Galaxies was one of the first major Triple-A MMOs. It’s development was so closely followed the mainstream media covered it, and that’s something they NEVER do. At a time when MMOs like Everquest and Ultima Online were making huge money, Sony Online Entertainment (responsible for the previously mentioned Everquest) and Lucasarts announced they were going to release THE MMO gamers all over the world wanted, Star Wars Galaxies.

On paper, Star Wars Galaxies was everything every gamer could have dreamed of. A chance for gamers to create their own original playable character in the Star Wars universe, pick from a series of trades ranging from smuggler to entertainer, and explore all the familiar planets seen in the Star Wars movies! To avoid issues with the ongoing prequel trilogy, the game was set after the events of the very first Star Wars movie, now referred to as Episode IV.

Star Wars: Galaxies had a monumentally successful launch and had some fiercely loyal ongoing customers, but some vocal players found issue with the limitations SOE put on them for the sake of game balance. A different MMO was released in 2004, World of Warcraft, which became a phenomenon overnight and remains the number one MMO of all time to this day. Over time, everything from space travel, to new planets were added as expansions but it didn’t improve the player base count. Eventually, entire gameplay revamps were brought into to the game…which only served to alienate the previously loyal fans. When BioWare planned a different MMO in the Star Wars universe, set during the events of the Knights of The Old Republic timeline, the decision was made to discontinue Galaxies, effectively ending the game.

Why did it fail? Everyone had their own theories. By the time it was shut down the MMO bubble, inflated by copycats trying to compete against the hugely successful World of Warcraft, had started to deflate. However, saintmillion has their own theory and after having watched their video on the subject myself, I am inclined to agree with them. Check it out!

At this day, Star Wars Galaxies and it’s expansions are no longer playable. If you want to get a good picture about how high the anticipation for Galaxies was back before it was released, I recommend seeking out the documentary Avatars Offline directed by Daniel Liatowitsch. I was lucky enough to watch that documentary at a film festival held at the University of California, Irvine back in 2003. This documentary sadly may be a piece of lost media, as even though it received a DVD release, it is now out of print and a Google search failed to turn up any digital distribution for it.

Gaming History You Should Know – The Fall of Tokyopop December 1, 2019

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We are back from a well deserved week off, and we are kicking our return off with an all-new Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced content focused on the history of nerdy culture. Today, we’re going to talk about a major component of Otaku culture, manga.

YouTuber Red Bard, who has an incredible channel focused on Japanese animation, produced this informative video about the rise and fall of a former staple of manga publishing in the US, TOKYOPOP. This kind of history fascinates me. I missed out on the original Manga boom in the US so it was great to have this video fill me in on what I missed out on. Take it away, Red Bard!

Gaming History You Should Know – The Game Boy Color Cellular Adapter August 25, 2019

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It’s no secret more advanced features regularly made their way into Nintendo hardware in its home country of Japan, be it rewritable floppy disk support for the NES or Satellite game streaming for the Super Nintendo. Today, on Gaming History You Should Know, we want to focus on one specific peripheral that BADLY needed to come to the US, cellular online multiplayer gaming. In the very early 2000s, prices for portable telephones and cellular services were becoming affordable to the mainstream and moved the devices from an expensive niche for rich businessmen to a tool that everyone NEEDED to stay in constant communication wherever they were.

That said, other than make calls, provide simple numerical calculations, and sending very limited text messaging, there wasn’t much you could do with a cell phone at that time. The best a basic cell phone could do was play the Snake game to amuse its owner for a brief time. In a world where the Game Boy had existed for a decade and Pokémon was already perched to become the biggest gaming phenomena of all time, while PC gamers could already play online multiplayer from their computers and laptops, these limitations were inexcusable.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, Pokémon was the best portable game of all time. Every main game from that franchise made use of the best features of the Game Boy handheld, and Game Freak would continue to evolve their games to take the best advantage they could out of each new hardware generation. However, at its initial games’ launch in the early 90s, the game’s multiplayer features could only be done through local play, and it required one player to own a Link Cable. How much better would these games be if I could play them online? With online support in Pokémon I could not only play against anyone at any time, it would allow for game updates or even free goodies straight from Nintendo without ever having to step foot in a retail store!

Since the time of the Nintendo DS launch, we’ve have all of these features as a standard in every Pokémon game and that tradition continues to this day. But would it surprise you to know that these features were available in Pokémon games as far back as Pokémon Crystal for the Game Boy Color? You might not have known about it because truth be told, it was a feature that was only offered in Japan. Enter the Mobile Game Boy Adapter!

The Mobile GB Adapter was a Game Boy Color peripheral that allowed its user to connect their cellular phone to the Game Boy Color’s I’ve been waiting a long time for someone to produce a detailed breakdown of this peripheral so I could feature it on this website. Enter Retro Ali, who has a fantastic YouTube channel full of great retro Nintendo gaming videos. She did a fantastic look at this peripheral, what games supported it and how.

As far as I know, the Pokémon Crystal Celebi challenge that made use of this adapter was never brought to the US Game Boy Color version. That said, I heard it was ported to the Virtual Console version of Pokémon Crystal when it was finally re-released on the Nintendo 3DS. It’s still a shame the US never received this ability.

Pokémon Crystal is out now for the Game Boy Color and Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console.

Gaming History You Should Know – The PokePark March 10, 2019

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It’s Sunday, Happy Mario Day everyone! I know I should coincide today’s look at Gaming History You Should Know with something Super Mario related, but this piece of gaming trivia is too good to ignore.

Ever since Nintendo signed a deal with Universal Studios, Theme Park fans have been eagerly anticipating Pokémon coming to a theme park in some way. Very few people remember that Pokémon have previously appeared in a Theme Park of their own, because the Park only existed for a brief time. I’m talking of course about the PokéPark, which operated in Japan in 2005 and in Taiwan in 2006.

But what was the PokéPark? What could you do in it? How much did it cost? The YouTube Channel Expedition Theme Park is one of the definitive YouTube Channels I look at when researching the history of Theme Parks, rides, and attractions all over the world. I don’t know if it was because I requested it or not, but almost a week after I asked him to look into the history of the PokéPark this video was posted! Check it out.

This is a great video. Thanks again to Expedition Theme Park for letting us feature them today! If you wanted to look up information about any theme parks, whether they’re defunct or still operating, I totally recommend checking them out.

Gaming History You Should Know – Sonic the Hedgehog’s Theme Park Legacy March 3, 2019

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It’s Sunday, and that means the time is right for an all new look at Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced content about gaming history. Today, we will be looking at the work of video creator Badnik Mechanic, and his videos about the blue streak that comes seeking through, Sonic The Hedgehog!

In the early to mid-90s, SEGA dominated the gaming landscape. The SEGA Genesis console was the first commercially successful 16-Bit game console in the United States, and a big reason for the console’s success came from the console’s hit game, Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic quickly became the Genesis console’s official mascot and a slew of new games starring the blue hedgehog would get released on a regular basis. The launch of new Sonic games quickly became major events, and SEGA held special events to celebrate their release featuring the characters they created. Over the years there have been dozens of official Sonic costumes that have been used at press events and theme parks. Badnik Mechanic painstakingly documented each and every one of those costumes, where they were used, and talked about how accurate they are.

Anyone who lived in the mid-90s knows the rest of the story. Following the success of his games, Sonic’s popularity exploded into other mediums. At least two different Sonic The Hedgehog cartoon shows were broadcasted, tons of Sonic comic books hit shelves, and I even remember some young adult Sonic novels were sold in bookstores. However, that’s not where Sonic‘s popularity stopped. A big component of Theme Parks are the attractions and shows and there have been Sonic the Hedgehog themed stage shows at various venues all over the world. This is a rare honor for a video game, as I can only think of two other game properties, Pokémon and Mortal Kombat, which had a live-action stage show. Once again, Badnik did a meticulous history of all the shows he could find, enjoy.

Sonic‘s theme park history is not limited to mere stage shows and character meet and greets. Alton Towers is one of the most popular theme parks in the U.K. and it has been the subject of many in-depth documentaries. What I didn’t know was that at one point it actually had a Sonic The Hedgehog roller coaster based on Sonic Spinball. Where I’m from, we typically name roller coasters after superheroes, so naming a coaster after the Blue Blur seems like a no-brainer. Let’s see how it happened and what it was like!

If you’d like a closer look at the Sonic The Hedgehog themed suite you could book at the Alton Towers hotel, Badnik Mechanic got a closer look at it when he stayed at the hotel a few years ago. Take a look!

Outside of the US, Sonic’s popularity branched out even further. SEGA opened a series of popular arcades in the U.K. called SEGA WORLD. The places were gaming utopias filled with SEGA arcade machines and tons of decorations featuring SEGA’s most popular characters. People from the states who grew up in the 90s would have a better time equating them to the more recent Dave & Busters arcade chain. Sadly, many of these arcades are no longer in operation, or have lost their license with SEGA. With all this hard work and high quality crafting going into creating Sonic the Hedgehog decor for these venues, do any of them still exist? Yes, at least one or two of them have been found. Here’s a video detailing the history of a rare statue found somewhere in the mountain roads of Japan.

So that is our look at the history of Sonic’s Theme Park Legacy! I want to thank Badnik Mechanic for letting me feature his work on this site. You should totally check out his videos, they’re well written, well researched, and well edited. If you ever were a fan of Sonic The Hedgehog his videos are a great trip through memory lane.

Gaming History You Should Know – No More Heroes Retrospective January 20, 2019

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It’s Sunday and welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, where we feature some of the best fan-created content from across the entire internet. On Friday, the Nintendo Switch saw the release of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, the third game in the No More Heroes series.

No More Heroes has been a franchise that we’ve covered in the past but haven’t been able to give an in-depth discussion as of late. The games were directed by Suda51 and follow the exploits of Travis Touchdown, a gamer who tries to become the world’s greatest assassin. The game’s themes are deeply rooted in gaming, anime, and Japanese culture and hold a special place in my heart. While the newest game has been considered by most critics and fans to be a spin-off of the original games, it does follow story and plot from the first two games in the NMH franchise.

YouTube creator GhenryPerez is a big fan of game developers like Platinum Games and Grasshopper Manufacture. He’s also a big fan of the work of Suda51, and has created an ongoing analysis series of his games, Deadly Individualism. Up to this point GhenryPerez has featured six of Suda51’s games in that series, starting with Killer7. It’s a great video series which breaks down every single character in the game, talks about their motivations, and offers some behind the scenes histories on their development. If you ever had any questions about NMH, you need to watch these videos!

Hope you enjoyed these videos while you play Travis Strikes Again. Special thanks to GhentryPerez for letting me link these videos on the site. Check him out on YouTube his videos are great! Click here if you want to watch his most recent video on Lollipop Chainsaw.

No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2 are out now exclusively on Nintendo Wii. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is out now exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.

Gaming History You Should Know [dot]HACK// Retrospective December 9, 2018

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Last year I became obsessed with the .HACK franchise. Created in an incredible partnership between Bandai and Cyberconnect 2, .HACK was one of the first franchises I had ever seen that was designed from the start to be transmedia. At the same time the .HACK games were being released on the PlayStation 2, there was also an animated TV series that tied into different events happening at the same time of the game. The entire franchise revolves around the lives of the players of a VR MMORPG named (literally) The World.

I remembered fondly watching the initial crucial reviews for the first games in this franchise back when G4TV was in its heyday, but as a PC-only gamer at the time who didn’t own a PS2, I could never afford to purchase the original games for myself. By the time I could, their prices had exploded in the second hand market, once again bringing them out of reach.

Last year, NamcoBandai did a great thing and re-released the second (and arguably most beloved) series in the .HACK franchise, .HACK//G.U., on the PS4 and PC. The original animated series like .HACK//Sign have been re-released as DVD boxed sets. I bought up as much of it as I could. However, the original four PS2 games from the franchise were not re-released, and I was disheartened to know I would be going into a game franchise with a big gap of information.

Enter YouTuber Model, who began work on an in-depth series of .HACK// retrospectives at around the same time I was getting to learn more about the franchise’s history. His videos were incredibly paced and exceptionally well edited, with great production values all around. They have been perfect at filling in the essential gaps left out by BandiNamco’s refusal to re-release many of these classic games. Today, Model released his fourth video retrospective on .HACK// Vol 4, completing his retrospective of the original PS2 .HACK// quadrilogy. You can watch each of them below, with each video covering one of the four games in their entirety. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but my guess is if you’re watching this it’s because you want this information.

I have to admit I am grateful for one thing, the fact that much of the .HACK// franchise has been re-released over the past few years. I’ve even seen soundtrack albums available for purchase at import stores. However, there are still several original games (and one film) that never was released outside of Japan, and these four older games from the first series fetch astronomical prices on the secondhand market. I would prefer to see NamcoBandai (or BandaiNamco) re-release these four fondly remembered games (as well as everything that was previously Japan-Only) on modern systems. They still own the franchise and Cyberconnect2 clearly still has a soft spot for the franchise they created, so there is literally no reason not to.

At some point I would like to take a closer look at the franchise but this is more than enough for now! Special thanks to Model for letting us feature his videos here on the site. You can also read his Twitter here. Great work buddy! Model promises to continue his retrospective series with a look at the .HACK//G.U. games, but he expects those to take a while.

.HACK// Episodes 1-4 are out now exclusively on the PlayStation 2.

Gaming History You Should Know – The Flash Animations of Ubergeek.tv November 4, 2018

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Welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced content from all over the web. Back in the annals of Internet history was a now-defunct website called Ubergeek.tv. It featured some unique flash content, ranging from videos to simple games. If there was an all-encompassing theme to his content, it was that it was revolving around Linux and Open Source software. It was some of the most humorous and eye-catching internet content of all time.

If the site is so good why haven’t I included a direct hyperlink to it, you ask? It would be pointless. Sadly, the site is no longer functional, and if you were to visit its url you would find nothing. What did this mean to the site’s content? Thankfully many of the best videos produced for it have been reposted on YouTube and we are going to take a look at some of them here. Let’s take a look at memory lane shall we?

Do many of you still remember the successful Switch to Mac ads of the 2000s? Honestly, I didn’t like them. While the actors who starred in them were decent with great chemistry, Apple would gloss over the information they provided about their computers in a way I felt was borderline unethical. This parody video on the other hand is just great. Here’s Ubergeek’s take on it, which I feel could only have been inspired if not from himself than from the words of a proud Mac owner.

Next up are some of his Linux related videos. Here’s a different parody of the Switch to Mac commercial only this time it’s about switching to Linux. If you were a supervillian wouldn’t you use Linux?

You like Linux? You like toast? Who wouldn’t like Intellitoast? I was seriously considering building a computer like this after seeing this video.

Next up is a short run of an animated flash game he produced called Penguin Blood Ninja Fiasco. In it you play a ninja penguin tasked to save open source software from evil lawyers. It was heavily inspired by the legal challenges to the GPL in the early 00s. The game itself is no longer playable but there is a full walkthrough video of the game online with its intro and outro included.

That’s just a look at some of the site’s content that has made its way back online, but not everything has been reposted. So far, his henchman soundboard and his final animation, Geeks in Love (which I have seen in its entirety and believe to be a masterpiece) has not been reposted but we will post a follow up with this article when it does. Special thanks to the original creator of the site who let me feature these videos on here. He told me he just enjoys making content and he’s happy for all the love he’s gotten for them!